Censorship, Banned Books and the Freedom to Read Anything You Darn Well Please

I read a recent article in The Washington Post that told the story of a mother who is currently trying to get the book, Beloved, banned from the school system in Fairfax County, VA. As she explains it, “It’s not about the author or the awards…it’s about the content.” My first response would be to say, “Isn’t it always?” The second and more important point I’d make needs to be said more often: Individuals have every right to speak freely about the things they disagree with. As such, individuals have every right to abstain from those things they disagree with. What they don’t have the right to do is to abstain in such a way that it affects the rights of others around them.

The Sun Also Rises

I’ve had this copy for a good fifteen years.

This is upsetting on many levels. As a reader, I want to have the ability to read anything I deem of worth. As a writer, I want to have the ability to write anything I consider worthy of putting out there. Also, as someone who very much wants to have children someday (my wife claims I have “baby fever,” which couldn’t be more accurate), I want my children to have the freedom to read whatever they think they’d enjoy, in and out of the classroom.

I have a vivid memory of reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises for the first time. I was fifteen, wildly immature (as that goes), and one who prided himself in acting the contrarian (as that certainly goes). I think my junior high teacher at the time called it “risqué” and then proceeded to tell me that I probably shouldn’t read it. Likely story. I had no idea what the teacher meant by “risqué” but it sure as hell sounded a lot like “risky.” Pair that with “probably shouldn’t read it” and you have catnip for curious, immature fifteen-year-olds.

So I did read it. I picked up the book at the library and couldn’t put it down. It was so very enthralling, even if I was too immature to fully understand all of the nuances of the characters, their motivations, and “Lost Generation” foibles.  That didn’t matter, really. I read a book that I enjoyed. I read a book that I was intrigued by. I read a book that I related to in certain ways. I read a book that made me question things about morality and values and the choices we make and the subsequent repercussions we deal with. In the end, I read a book that was presented as something that may be dangerous or outside of the realm of my comprehension or maturity level.

And I benefited from it. Later, I went on to read most of Hemingway’s books, from A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and The Sea to most of his short stories and even a biography of the author (Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences). To this day, The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorite books—a conclusion I probably couldn’t have made if I had lived in an environment that discouraged and censored me along the way.

We need a world that is free from this discouragement and censorship. We need a world that inspires us to lose ourselves in the magic of storytelling. We need a world that gives us the opportunity to glean to our hearts’ content. We need a world that encourages us to engage and to think critically about all books. And yes, that includes Fifty Shades of Grey.


  1. T. Rees Shapiro, “Fairfax county parent wants ‘Beloved’ banned from school system,” The Washington Post, February 7, 2013.
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My Mother, Queen of the Euphemism

Recently, I spent a few hours with my family at the wedding of my cousin. I don’t see my family often, other than a holiday here and there, so it was nice to connect with my brothers, sister and mother on a more personal level than, let’s say, a Facebook exchange over a photo of our horses (or, as is the case with my mother, a photo of her standing barefoot in her driveway with a dead wild turkey [not the beverage] in her hands, never-ending grin on her face, blood spatter staining the concrete). It’s not every time, but sometimes when we get together my brothers and I, my sister and my mother sync together just right: we share in the same inflection, context, direction in which we target our wit.

Wild Turkey Death Match

Doris Day Meets Calamity Jane Meets Rambo

My mother participates differently, though. While my brothers and I poke fun, she laughs and routinely unearths some rare gem, usually in the form of a euphemism. She is the very best at this. If Euphemism* Creation were an Olympic sport, she would win the gold. I would feel bad for the competition, as they would be eating her metaphorical stuff.

I think of this and I wonder if her knack for the most general of description played a role in my own development. It may have not on the level that her lack of spelling prowess did, but it surely had something to say—and I took notice; if not consciously, mental notes were gathered in wispy snippets.

And so, it is without further adieu I give you: Mom, The Amazing Euphemism Builder Thingy**

Our word: Greenhouse

Her word: Plant home box

Our word: Dining table

Her word: Big food platform

Our word: Remote control

Her word: Clicker thing

Our word: Fortune cookie

Her word: Fake sweet triangle

Our word: Fireplace

Her word: Burn den

Our word: Consequence

Her word: Take that!

You get the idea. I love her for it. I think I prefer her words. It came to a point where she could simply say thing, and I knew what she was referring to. It’s swell. And by that I mean super awesome.

*I am using the loose definition of euphemism to make an artistic point. All right? Stop. It’ll be okay.
**You should also know that I am using a bit of exaggeration. Mom, you know I sentiment you.

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When I’m Injured

So, I am injured. I think it’s a stress fracture. In my head. Okay, that’s not true. It’s in my foot. My running foot. Well, I actually run with two feet. That is to say, both of my feet. Needless to say, I am going crazy. It’s not fun. I love to run. It makes me happy. And while I am living, I aim to maximize my happiness.

Injuries are like happiness assassins. They’re like “oh, you like to run? Yeah, well, take that!” POW! BOOF! SPLAT!

And then I’m injured.

And no, I am still young. Don’t you dare.

And no, I don’t do too much. That’s plain ol’ poppycock.

Right now, I am running in my mind. It’s soooo nice in here.


Jessica says that I should lay on the bed, on my back, and rotate my legs and arms so it “feels” like I’m running.

I told her to stuff it.

Because, you know, we love each other.

A sampling of that love:

Facebook back and forth

Happy running, idiots.

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Inane Arguments Against Wealth Creation, Supposed Exorbitance

I read an article the other day. The title of the article is “Huge Houses Are Morally Wrong.” I had to read it twice to make sure the author wasn’t pulling one over on me. In the end, I am left feeling both a sense of outrage and sadness. And here is why:

  1. On his mention of Bill Gates’ fortune, and the $30 billion he has given away to charity, the latter of which the author decided isn’t enough, I say this: $30 billion isn’t enough? Is there a “moral” number? Do you, dear author, give away 40% of your wealth? I doubt you do. And if you did, I don’t care. It’s none of my damn business. So, in addition to the $3o billion, which in and of itself is a tremendous value, what about the value Bill Gates has brought to the world with Microsoft? But no, the author doesn’t seem to think that the billions of people who have benefited from his company is a matter of importance. I say poppycock. I hope Mr. Gates continues to make tons of money. But, in the end (and which will be my main point here), I don’t give a darn what he does make or doesn’t make, or does do or doesn’t do.
  2. On his mention of Peter Singer and his argument that no one is entitled to live beyond $30,000/year. What a sick, depraved way to live. It’s these type of folk that want us to revert to a time wherein technologies were of the simplest and less impacting variety. The argument disregards all of the tremendous value (jobs, wealth, well-being, more efficient and less expensive production methods, etc.). But, again, who cares? If my bachelor neighbor decides to move out of his one-room apartment into a 3-room house, that’s his prerogative; that’s his right. But Hamilton’s argument would say that my neighbor should not do this; that it is of waste; and that it is immoral. That’s bogus. Let’s say I want to buy an Apple laptop. It may be a bit outside of my price comfort range, but I desire the product, its accoutrement and warranty program. Is it immoral to decide to ditch my $300 Acer in place of the $1,500 Apple? Of course not. My money is precisely that. Mine. What I decide to do with it is entirely on me.
  3. In the end, for me, all that matters is this: it is theirs. Their money. Their wealth. Regardless of how they acquired the wealth (it could be via hard work and determination or nepotism or whatever), it is theirs, and they get to decide what they do with it. They could just sit on it. Literally. They could exchange it for gold and sell it. They could travel. They could buy million dollar homes. It doesn’t matter. Not I or the billionaire has any moral obligation to live by certain socially constructed means.

I say stop whining about what isn’t yours. What others do with their money doesn’t concern you (unless, of course, they are using the money to inflict actual harm).

I say, dear millionaires and billionaires, please continue doing what you’re doing. You provide me with entertainment in the movies you create. You make it easier for me to do business, in the software programs you create and the social media websites you develop. You make everyday staples of living less expensive and easier to consume. Your homes, your wealth, your success and celebrity are the things rational, reason-minded, positive people aspire to achieve.

Live well. Live “ridiculously well.”

As for the Hamiltons of the world, go ahead and keeping thinking squalor is of some intrinsic value. That’s fine. As long as you give up the iPhone, the laptop, the vehicle.

For other tidbits of mine on this topic, go here and here.

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Creating The Villain

They tell me I simply need to let it be; to pay no mind. But how is such a thing possible? The anguish that was caused; the heartache; the grief; these are attributes of my character, in the sense that they have shaped my emotional, intellectual and mental understanding of the world, of people, and the way in which these things interact with one another.

Wait, scratch that. I know it’s possible to let it be. After all, if I don’t, then he’s winning.

But, what if I don’t want to? What if I need him to play the role of the tormentor? What if I need to relegate him to evil, dictatorial villain?

What if I need to know that a person like that will struggle, experience hardship?

Don’t I have some say as to how he does this? Am I not part of the social barometer that demonizes infidelity, abuse, hypocrisy? If not, then who? Not, quite assuredly, god; the latter of which I find to be especially frustrating. To live forever, after this? Really?

Presumably psychologists would say that I was losing it; that I, to some degree, am failing to see the picture. I beg to differ. It’s really quite simple.

A is evil.

A causes B pain.

B’s pain surfaces when A’s damaging effects are witnessed within context of familial structure.

In order to absolve pain, B must do one of two things:

B can steer clear of the rest of family.

B can implement the “A as villain” approach.

If option 1 occurs, B suffers.

If option 2 occurs, B finds solace.

Or perhaps B needs to get over it.


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Mom, Dyslexia and How I Came to Perceive Words

My mother is dyslexic. Really dyslexic. Needless to say, this is by no means meant to belittle her. Dyslexia is something she didn’t choose, so I don’t hold it against her. It is, quite simply, a part of her, something she was born with, akin to her penchant for breaking out in song and dance a la Gene Kelly, as I’ve written about before, in a story that I never seem to finish:

It was that way once. Long ago. Lampposts, then, were not just the large candy cane flashlights they appear to be. Then, so very long ago, with a smile on my face and my cheeks as the rosy red warriors they so often seem to be, I swung from those metal cylinders, like Gene Kelly in Singin’ In the Rain. And I reckon, the response is in fact instinctual; or rather, to be more specific, it’s genetic.

I can thank my mother for that. She had a penchant for Mr. Kelly. He danced like one should dance, she had always said.

Anyhow, I bring this bit of information up for one reason: it is through her dyslexia (she struggles mostly with spelling) I learned to look at words in a way I had never experienced before. It was unique. Life-altering. But, of course, I didn’t really know it then. Sure, I recognized that I was learning how to spell. And not just the simple words (although she had trouble with those as well). But the more challenging words too; the ones with the “silent” non-emphasis and the ones that seemed to go on forever and ever without the loving respite of a vowel insertion.

I think fondly of the chores, handwritten, on the sad, yellow legal pad she would give us every morning. Letters traded places with one another, or were never found. But it didn’t matter. For the most part, I could figure out what she was trying to say.

And after a while, I didn’t really see the spelling mishaps. The jumbled letters were (still are) simply a result of a broken filter between her thoughts (always quite clearly articulated orally) and the paper upon which she was writing.

So I became her own personal spelling machine.

And yes, even though the spelling machine poked fun at the dyslexic from time to time, it mostly helped remedy the filter of a mother he loved (still loves!) dearly.

Thank you, mom.

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Spencer’s Story: Volume 3

“What are you doing?” Mr. Grum commanded.

Groggy, Spencer took a moment to answer, to get his bearings. “I was just resting. Just resting.”

“Well get up. Now. We have company.”

A tall man in a v-neck sweater of green stood behind his father, smiling, waiting for Spencer to react.

“Spencer, this is Mr. Blankenship. He’s with the church.”

“Nice to meet you,” Spencer said.

“Very nice to meet you, Spencer.”

Spencer smiled, looking Mr. Blankenship in the eyes. This was how it went with company. Smile politely, make eye contact, don’t step out of line. That line had been drawn in impenetrable stone for as long as Spencer could remember. As much as he tried to forget, his evolutionary mechanism aptly reminded him of its presence in times like these.

“We’re going to be using the dining room. I don’t want any interruptions. You got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

With the church, Spencer mused. It’s always with the church. He had wondered why the church took precedence over family. Why the way the family dressed for church worship services was important enough to scream about, fight over. Why Spencer and his brothers had to be so gosh darn quiet in their company. It was as though, as Spencer had thought before, their Christian development wasn’t matured, or brainwashed enough to fit in.

Frankly, he was sick of it. And he went to bed that evening with a sour taste in his mouth.

The next morning, Spencer woke before the sun came to visit. This was par for the course in the Grum household. Early to rise for chores of cleaning and dusting and organizing. While his brothers still had it in them to whine about it, Spencer had grown to realize that it was how it went. And it wasn’t so bad, he had thought. It usually gave him more time during the day to play outdoors: his most favorite place on the planet.

Later that day, after he had finished his chores, Spencer was given permission to invite his friend Garrett over. And that day, Spencer found adventure in a place hadn’t ever before.

*    *    *    *

Beyond the hill behind the Grum house, horses ran, unsaddled and free. Or at least that’s what Spencer liked to think. He didn’t know much about horses–other than what he gleaned from episodes of Have Gun Will Travel–but he did like to lean up against the fence and watch them as they galloped to and fro chasing jackrabbits and chomped on wild lemon grass in between yearnings to scratch their backs with the crust of the earth.

This one time, however, when he was eight, Spencer and his friend Garrett did just a bit more than simply watch the horses.

It was another one of those sunny weekend days in Southern California: perfect for romping around the neighborhood, exploring new trees to build forts upon, finding new ways to lend credence to the title of hooligan or scoundrel or whippersnapper, terms he heard regularly delivered by Mrs. Walden (for skateboarding “too fast” down the hill near their houses, or throwing water balloons at passing bicyclists).

“Let’s go watch the horses,” Garret said. Garrett lived in a stucco box of an apartment next to other stucco boxes, and didn’t often have the chance to be around animals. Small pets weren’t allowed in his apartment complex. Not even miniature horses.

Spencer wanted to get out of the house anyhow. Miah and Marcus were fighting over the integrity of one another’s building block castle: Miah’s being replete with moat, and imaginary crocodiles for the strict purpose of chomping on intruders, or Marcus’ wandering fingers; Marcus’ castle being the one with the highest towers, or the “better angle to shoot things in the face.” The parents were, as was the routine for Sundays, arguing over bills in their bedroom. They jabbed at each other in exasperated exclamations.

“Okay,” Spencer replied. “Let’s go.”

When they both reached the fence at the top of the hill, they leaned against it and looked out upon the roaming beasts.

“Who’s are they?” Garret asked.

“I don’t know. They’re just here.”

“But who owns them?”

“I don’t know. Maybe no one does. I think they’re just wild.”

A few moments pass before the two exchange grins. The grins, translated, amounted to: They’re wild. We’re wild. Let’s be wild together.

That, at the least, was their collective vision. However naive, it was still theirs. No rules. No parents. No brothers or sisters. Only them, and the wild beasts of the field beyond the Grum house.

Stepping through the barbed wire fence, Garrett looks up, noticing one of the horses trot towards them, only twenty paces off or so. “They’re not going to eat us, are they?”

“Um, no. No, they’re herbivores…I think.”

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Holiday Gift Ideas For the Bibliophile, the Movie Buff, the Geek, the Nerd

Happy holidays!

I apologize for the delay. But it’s up now. Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of holiday gift ideas for the bibliophile, the movie buff, the nerd or geek (or all of the above, as I would lay claim to). If you’re curious about what I included on my Holiday Gift Idea for 2010, check it out here.


  • Any Empire by Nate Powell. I read Powell’s Swallow Me Whole in 2011, and it was one of my favorites. Powell tackles difficult subject matter (mental illness, war, drugs) in a very unique way, both visually and linguistically.
  • Arguably by Christopher Hitchens. His way with words never ceases to astound me; he manages to intertwine the eloquent, the most delicate, with the most biting and critical sentiment. It routinely makes for an evocative, thought-provoking read. Even if you are a believer (he writes of his atheism quite often), his books are important, I think. Arguably is a collection of his essays, which I presume to be inclusive of religion, politics, et al.
  • Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. I learned of Oliver through Jessica. She always went on and on about him. Now I see why. His writing is funny, heartfelt. His illustration is beautiful, inspired. I’ve read most of his books since my initial introduction. Plus, we’ve met him!
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This is an older book, published in 2007, but I am including it because of Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation, Hugo. The book is wonderful, magical and inspiring. It’ll make your heart leap. As for the film adaptation, which came out a few weeks back, it’s also quite wonderful. Read the book, see the movie. The order doesn’t matter. Just do both.
  • Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey by Bob McCabe. If you love the world of Harry Potter (I do!), this is for you. The books are great, the films are excellent. Great production all around.
  • Stick by Andrew Smith. After reading Smith’s The Marbury Lens, I knew that I’d continue reading his books. Stick, his latest, is wonderfully wrought with genuine, believable character, emotion, relationship. One of my favorite books of 2011.
  • Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet. I haven’t read this one–it’s the second book in a trilogy–but I do feel comfortable recommending Lydia Millet. She’s a stellar writer. I’ve read My Happy Life, Everyone’s Pretty and Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, all of which are outstanding. If you haven’t heard of Millet and you want to get a taste, start with Everyone’s Pretty. Then pick up the first book in this trilogy, How The Dead Dream. You won’t regret it. She also had a Middle Reader book come out this year, titled The Fires Beneath the Sea. Adding to my ever-expanding to-read list!
  • Habibi by Craig Thompson. This is another book I have yet to read, but we do own it (isn’t this the predicament for most bibliophiles? sigh). Thompson is most known for Blankets, which I thought was unique, and a solid bit of storytelling. Habibi looks to be the same.
  • Feynman by Jim Ottaviani. Okay, this is the last book I haven’t read, and the last of the books. I added it because I want to get it myself! This is a graphic novel about Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Color me intrigued! This past year I read the graphic novel Logicomix, which was a biography about Bertrand Russell. I really enjoyed it. Feynman seems to be similar, at least in its style and approach.

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani


  • Harry Potter: The Complete 8 Film Collection on Blu-Ray. Now, the purists would probably hold out for the inevitable release of the more special features-laden edition, some time next year. But I think this is a great collection if you want the movies, and aren’t as interested in the special features. Still, you have all 8 movies in one package. That’s hard to beat!
  • Bridesmaids on DVD. I went to see this with my wife, mom-in-law and sis-in-law. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. It’s hilarious. Great gift for friends, or brides t0-be!
  • Beginners on DVD. One of the more emotional journeys of 2011. Great acting by Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer (or, as I always see him, Captain Von Trapp). Truly unique look at coping with loss, and finding one’s way.
  • X-Men: First Class on Blu-Ray. My favorite “superhero” movie of 2011. The design of the sets are pretty and right for the time period. The choice to cast McAvoy and Fassbender to play Xavier and Magneto, respectively, was perfect. The side characters are fun. The villains are cool, especially Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw. Sharp, quality writing, exciting action, good film all-around.
  • Super 8 on Blu-Ray. I think my overall favorite film of the year. It does, as many of the critics have said, bring you back to the magic and wonder of some of the earlier Spielberg movies. It’s frightening at  times, heartwarming at times. A must see.
  • Buck on DVD. This, I have yet to see. It’s on my to-see list. But I have heard such wonderful things. Inspiring things. Happy things. It’s a true story, it has horses (yes, please) and it’s great for the whole family.
  • Community Seasons 1& 2 on DVD. One of our favorite T.V. comedies (along with Psych). Quality writing, gut-busting comedy, genuine and likeable characters. Must watch. Also, there’s a bit of uncertainty about the next season, so this could be your way of showing support!
  • Justified Season 1 on DVD. Timothy Olyphant cannot do wrong. I even liked him as Hit Man. This is a great show. Protagonists you love to love; antagonists you love to hate. Western-like elements, and super suspense! Season 2 will be out on DVD January 3, 2012.
  • Sherlock Season 1 on DVD. Sherlock Holmes in the modern day! Brilliant. Martin Freeman (of The Office and soon to be The Hobbit) plays Watson, and Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, Cumberbatch, and a superb actor) plays Holmes. Truly great show. And mysteries we haven’t seen before.
  • The Rocketeer on Blu-Ray. The Rocketeer! On Blu-Ray! I adore this movie. One of Joe Johnston’s best. Great family fun and adventure.
  • Jurassic Park Trilogy on Blu-Ray. I remember seeing the first film in the movie theater. My mother sat beside me and dug her nails into my arm at a constant. Rightfully so, I think. It’s genuinely scary. I think it still holds up today. The next two movies in the trilogy (The Lost World and JP 3) aren’t as great, but they are surely enjoyable. To me, if it has dinosaurs, I’m going to watch it.

The Rocketeer on Blu-Ray


  • Ceremonials by Florence + the Machine. To be honest, I haven’t heard this album in its entirety yet, but I did love what I listened to. I very much love Lungs (one of their other albums), and I don’t see this being any different. Powerful vocals, good pop sound.
  • A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him. This, we have. It’s lovely. M. Ward, with his guitar work and the gravelly intonation; Zooey Deschanel, with her silky, soft, makes you want to dance giddy-like through fields of dandelions voice; the two of them combined, well, it’s simply magical.
  • Tumble Bee by Laura Veirs. Whimsical folksy music. This one for kids! Beautiful music, fine strums, storytelling language.
  • All Eternals Deck by The Mountain Goats. This came out back in March of this year, but if you have not listened, please do. The Mountain Goats, led by the unparalleled John Darnielle, creates mesmerizing folk rock. Darnielle’s lyrics are truly one-of-a-kind. Poetic, bold, lush in sentiment, intent.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, score by Alexandre Desplat. I love the HP film scores. Both whimsical and intense. I have most of them on CD. Definitely worth a listen.
  • Super 8, score by Michael Giacchino. Think adventure and fright and childhood. Wonderfully apt score for a wonderfully pleasant movie.
  • The Muppets, music (for the most part) by Bret McKenzie. Very enjoyable, fun, happy, makes you want to do cartwheels-type of music. Fun for the whole family.
  • Hugo, score by Howard Shore. Okay, I love film scores. I love to listen to them in my car and perhaps act out the scene. For instance, if I’m listening to Raiders of the Lost Ark, I am Indy. So, Hugo. Wonderful tunes. Get it.

Tumble Bee from Laura Veirs

General Geekery, Nerdery, Tomfoolery:

  • Bearmageddon merchandise. If you haven’t read the ongoing web comic, Bearmageddon, you are a butt face. Read it. It’s fun. I mean, hell, it’s replete with crazy bear octopus evil villain types. And it’s free! You can support the writer/creator, Ethan Nicolle, by purchasing a t-shirt or poster.
  • Knock Knock Notepads. We love these, and use the All Out Of shopping list all the time. They have notepads for the practical, the funny, the neurotic. Great stocking stuffer gifts.
  • Amazing Breaker. I didn’t think I’d enjoy a game more than Angry Birds. I do. It’s this. Only 99 cents!
  • Firefly Les Femmes Posters. I’m a self-professed browncoat. Yes, I am.
  • Captain America Hoodie. Do you love America? Do you love being cozy? Then you’ll love this!
  • The Walking Dead Board Game. If you’re into the comic and/or the television show, I think this is a fun purchase. Zombies! Survival! Christmas!
  • GRID-IT! Organizer. Fits your iPod, digital camera, wires and such. Keeps things neat and tidy.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes. This is great for kids and adults. Super imagination, creativity outlet.
  • Curiosities – Vintage Inspired Adornments for Correspondence. This is perfect for those fond of handwritten letters, crafts and vintage-style decor.

Bearmageddon by Ethan Nicolle

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Your Rights As They Exist On An Island, By Your Lonesome

I saw a sign at the Occupy Wall Street protest that, well, sort of boggled my mind.

To Say That a Job is a Right is the Same Thing as Claiming You Have the Right to Enslave

How can you claim a job to be a right? Are you not claiming ownership over the product or service of another person?

And this is where the “rights on an island” scenario comes into play. My dear friend Justin used this analogy. Imagine if you were on an island and you were the only person there. No other human exists on this island. Additionally, there are no merchants or health care providers or attorneys or–yes, that’s right–employers.

Consider the way in which your rights exist in this setting. On this island, you have freedom to do as you please. If you wanted to spend time doing jumping jacks, that is your right. If you wanted to build a home* on this island, you could do that too. But your rights are limited to what you can provide for yourself, without infringing upon another.

You have the right to pursue (your own, unique, personal, individual) happiness. You have the right to liberty. That is all.

You do not have the right to another man’s product or service. Or, in the case of the employer, you do not have the right to a job. A job is a value the employer has created for themselves. They worked to achieve a status that affords them the freedom to hire. That is their achieved liberty. They can hire, and that is their choice.

You do not have a right to a job. A job is product that is created and carefully constructed; to be offered, only at the will and desire of the employer who created it. If they deem a candidate of worth and relevance for the job, then they have the liberty to choose said candidate.

Just as a job is a product, so is, let’s say, a lamp. The Lamp Store sells lamps. Do you have a right to the lamp? What about the dentist? Her product is dental care. Do you have a right to that?


Remember, you are on an island. Your rights exist only as if you were on said island, all by your lonesome.

I don’t have a right to a job. I do have the right, however, to make myself relevant and of value to the employer. I do this by honing my skill. Gaining experience. Contacting people in the industry.

I own a small business. It’s new and, week to week, I work hard to build something that will, in time, be enough to support my family. It’s not easy work. It takes dedication. Toil. Sweat. Patience. Do I have a right to this job? Heck no.

I imagine a scenario in which I walk into the office of a local marketing firm and tell them that I have a right to procure a writing project from them. They’d laugh me out of their office and possibly call the police. And rightfully so.

So, please, don’t claim you have a right to a job. You don’t.

*The island is only metaphorical. It doesn’t exist. The home you build is also metaphorical. No private/public property arguments.

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Spencer’s Story: Volume 2

When his parents were gone on those church trips, the boys were usually left in the capable hands of any one of the four teenage girls that lived in the neighborhood. But to be capable in his parents’ eyes is to keep Spencer and his two brothers from bleeding from their eyeballs or some such injury that would land them in the hospital. To be capable in Spencer’s eyes was different, though. It was everything.

It meant he didn’t have to scrub the toilet. It meant he didn’t have to find clever ways to avoid his father. It meant he didn’t have to do as Jesus would do. Wine from stone aside, it just wasn’t that appealing.

Miah and Marcus reacted as most kids would. They went crazy. And as long as the messes were cleaned up before the parents’ arrival, and they kept it within the confines of their bedroom, they were free to do what they wanted.

But, one Saturday evening in August of ’92, things turned out differently.

“Alright kids. I need to make a phone call. Keep it down,” Tiffany, the first-year college student from three houses over, said to Spencer, Miah and Marcus shortly after the Grum parents pulled out of the driveway.

“Who are you calling?” Marcus asked.

“Yah, who ya call…”

“Guys, stop it,” Spencer interrupted. “Lets go to the bedroom.”

“But I want to know who she’s calling.” Miah responded.

“It’s none of your business. Let’s go. Who wants to play Monopoly?” Spencer said.

“I do!” Miah exclaimed.

“I get to be the boot!” Marcus replied.

“I’m the race car!” Miah said.

“I’ll be the thimble, okay? Let’s go.”

Monopoly always seemed to work. It was the one board game they owned that still had enough pieces to make it playable. They had a checkers set that was once used as ammunition for the boys’ grossly inaccurate, and mildly racist reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The checker pieces that found their way up to the roof never were retrieved.

For the next two hours, the Grum boys sat cross-legged on the floor in their bedroom and played Monopoly. The structure of which typically went something like this:

  1. Game opens with delight, fervor
  2. 30 minutes pass without much change
  3. Miah expresses desire to make his one procured property a “super duper,” that has the power to burn its unwanted occupants with molten lava
  4. Marcus and Spencer roll their eyes and deny the request
  5. Another 30 minutes pass by with a handful of houses purchased, mostly by Marcus and Spencer
  6. Marcus is distracted by Miah’s constant fidgeting and promptly–and throughout the remainder of game–complains
  7. Miah expresses delight at having once again annoyed his older brother. He does so by making “neener neener” faces
  8. Spencer waits patiently
  9. Spencer places mansion on Boardwalk
  10. Miah and Marcus charge Spencer with cheating
  11. Spencer laughs at his brothers’ inability to handle time consumption
  12. Miah calls Marcus and Spencer a “poop eater” and quits
  13. 10 minutes later, Marcus quits for lack of money
  14. Spencer puts the game back in its box, happy to have distracted his brothers for the two hours

For Spencer, the time spent post-Monopoly matches was undoubtedly the best. His brothers, annoyed and pouting, kept mostly to themselves. The babysitter found solace in her phone calls. And he was met with a calming respite from the pressure.

Mostly, he didn’t have to keep up appearances. He wasn’t his father’s little soldier.

He was himself. His own self.

His own self.

His own self.

These are the words that played again and again as he fell to sleep on the floor in the dining room that evening in August of ’92.

When he woke hours later, with a hand around his ankle, the words seemed so far away, so distant and foreign and never to be reached again.

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